Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Night Train to Tomorrow


Of late I have been a bit lost.  I have had some pains that are out of the ordinary and they concern me.  Today I will give the relevant doctor a call.  Also, I had a growth on my ear that needed to be removed.  It was beginning to look like I had a small toe growing out of the top of my ear. A numbing agent and a few snips and now I look like a Mike Tyson chew toy. Getting old blows.

 

Just the other day I saw a movie just because of my current fascination with Portugal.  The film was called Night Train to Lisbon; it is a languidly paced and beautiful movie.  Jeremy Irons acts a solid part depicting an adult at the crossroads between the long road behind and the short road ahead. Having seen the movie, I picked up the book.  Same story, sort of.  The book tells the tale from a very different narrative perspective. 

 

The book is a meditation by a person who believes in nothing beyond this life on personal identity and ethics.  Some parts of the narrative, large parts of the book are purportedly drawn from the journal of a dead man, wax redundant.  But some parts are so spot on to what I am feeling this day, two months before I turn 62.  What if I could take back those eight words I said 25 years ago.  What if I had not been smoking the night before the PSAT.  What if ….and more importantly what next?

 

In the book the main character seems to be heading for a new life, ready to create a new narrative with the time he has left after many years of a highly regimented existence.  A new narrative, yes that is what I am hoping for.  Mind you, I am not counting on it, but I am hoping for it.  Let me walk out without fear as I face my final years.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Wind Blew By and It was Named Jerry

There was no mistaking the flashing lights, we were about to have a police encounter. As the officer walked up to the car, we hid the beer bottles under our seats.  The six month old VM Microbus sat in the outside lane on the ascending slope of a four lane three-mile-long suspension bridge.  Without waiting to be asked my brother handed the officer his license, registration and proof of insurance. 

Leaning in the window of the microsbus the officer gave us a stern look.  Glancing at the documents the uniformed man asked if my brother knew why he pulled us over.  Jerry flashed that “all shucks” look that he had all but patented and said “Honestly officer I think you might be stopping us because you think we intentionally skipped paying the toll.  But the truth is we didn’t intend to get on the bridge.  We got turned around at that pull off back there and instead of going back into Delaware we ended up headed toward New Jersey.” Every word he had just spoken was total horseshit but the sound of those phrases just oozed with smooth sincerity.  

Officer Bosman carefully scanned my brother up and down.  I merited only a glance. “Jerry Todd,” he said, “Do I know you?”.  Something clicked in my brother’s memory.  “Bosman, are you the Bosman that took my sister to that big dance. What has it been 15 years since I saw you?” 

At that moment, my brother had taken complete control over the situation.  The cop smiled and asked how my sister was doing.  “Married” laughed my brother.  Officer Bosman relaxed.  “I am sorry boys he said but I gotta write for avoiding the tollbooth.  You can appeal this of course at the Justice of the Peace Court in New Castle. You know I don’t think I will be showing up for that hearing.”  My brother’s smile had avoided yet another disaster.  No OUIL, no contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a cop had just told him that if he appealed the ticket by showing up in court, he'd probably win it.

My brother died two months ago.  That force of nature that was his smile is nothing but part of 13 ounces of ash in a ceramic jar on a mantle in a beachside house in Mexico.  His life force touched me; I think I got a bit of that shuck and jive just by watching him. How many times did I watch him just smile and say I understand and then follow up with a question about where the person was from based on their accent? Invariably, he would follow that up by listing a place he had lived near where the speaker was from in Texas, or California or North Carolina.  Watching him taught me to listen for the little things that give you access to the person in front of you that just wants to be known.

A few years ago, my youngest son and I arrived at a bar in a beachside resort. It was roughly late dinner time on a late week night.  The manager could come up with a table for six but eight would require an hour wait.  The lad and I decided we would go into the bar and eat and let everyone else take the table.  My son was about 16 at the time. 

In the course of our time at the bar I ordered a beer and the boy had a pop.  We placed our dinner orders and waited. A guy sat down beside us and called for a single malt.  He had a southern accent and within two questions I knew he was from Louisville, Kentucky.  The man and I talked about the nightmare for the locals the Derby week causes.  “Me,” I said, “I always stayed out of town at a little campground. Nope I was no part of your problems with race day tourists.  On race day, its straight to the track and when the race was done, I left.”  He smiled and said you’re the kind of people we like, you just leave your money and most likely you don’t piss on my lawn.  The boy giggled.  I told the man I didn’t sit in the infield winning me bonus points with the now not so strange stranger.  He gave me tips on some great bar-b-que joints in Louisville and headed off.  

Next, I met two women up from North Carolina as they saddled up to the bar.  We talked about the beaches around Wilmington.  I mentioned that I had spent a few weeks down at a beach house on Henderson Beach with my brother.  Jerry was once a lifeguard and a student at UNCW.  The women laughed and told me about their upcoming loop of the nearby vineyards.  I told them my favorite spots to stop and sample the best wines.  I also told them about a great little dive they needed to have lunch at.  Our food came and the ladies and I finished up our conversation.  They had moved on by the time our food came.

My son looked at me in a way that is hard to describe.  We talked about what had just happened.  He seemed surprised to see how easily I moved into conversations.  He admitted he struggled in that area.  This made me smile both inside and out.  My thoughts drifted back to my brother.  Finding a way to make a positive connection no matter what the circumstance, with a smile and a line, my brother gave me that gift.  As my son looked at me and kept talking about how smoothly I moved between conversations I could see my brother’s brown hair and mustache looking all the world like Sam Elliott smiling and moving past the velvet rope into whatever club he wanted.

Yeah, those bits and bobs of remains sitting on that mantle don’t do justice to the force of life that was my brother.  He had an aura.  He had a will to live and live life fully.  From sucking down 100-year-old cognac to driving fast and tight he was in for the whole E ticket ride.  I am glad I got the chance to watch a master.



A Dream had One Winter Morning

Most nights I dont remember my dreams.  Awaking I may have a feeling that a dream was fun, frightening or odd but the content of the ethereal fantasy is usually lost to me and lost very quickly.  Some mornings as I rouse myself from my flannel sheets I may think that a dream was so striking that I will remember every detail.  Within five minutes the particulars and specifics have mostly if not completely flow.

Last night was different.  The dream was striking and quite vivid.  My mind was filled with so much detail that I pulled out my iPhone as soon as I sat up on the edge of the bed. Quickly I dictated as much as I could remember.

In the first vignette of the reverie I was trying to buy concert tickets. In the world of the dream you could only buy the tickets at the theater. As a result, I was standing at first in a small venue in a town where I had lived 40 years ago. Dreams add layers to every single element, and so it turned out the music hall was inside of a performing arts high school.

Glancing around it seemed he old brick building was falling down. With dark red brick, dark stained wood and long wide staircases the place had a Harry Potter like feel to it. Wandering around I kept looking for the box office.

As I walked the halls I ran into my old legal secretary. She was dressed in white but I could not make sense of what she was saying. Teens were suddenly everywhere singing songs from recent musicals and running lines from Shakespeare. It was a cacophony. My secretary smiled and faded away.

With all this going on the real world intruded. My heart felt regrets over not sending my son to the school. But I was there to get tickets damn it and so I searched everywhere for somebody to sell me tickets. Eventually a uniformed person wrote my name on a clipboard and told me I had tickets. But there was no receipt and I was stressed.

Out of nowhere someone I kind of knew from years ago gave me coins.  Talking quickly, they told me the coins were of some value and that I could either hold or use them. I was confused completely. I decided to get some air.

Leaving the school, I passed a beautiful bucolic scene where a new elegant restaurant had been built.  The trendy bistro was not yet opened for the day. But I so wished to eat there. Continuing on I walked past a street that had been important in my life but it was different. While the signs were just as gaudy as they had ever been, with neon and blinking arrows, the joy of the place I had felt before was gone. And then I awoke.

In the end as I sat there on the edge of the bed I was in an utter melancholy funk thinking wistful thoughts filled with regrets.

Me, I dont think dreams mean much.  I have a quarterly dream of hands reaching out of a grate or from under a door grabbing for my ankles. I am not worried about someone abducting me, although I have been having this dream every three months for thirty years.  I am pretty sure I was not abducted as a child.  It was just a dream. Still, a dream can set our mood for a day.  So be it. 




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wet Slippery Leaves


For the past several days it has been raining.  This constant two and a half days of precipitation wasn’t anything special.  Dreary and varying between a drizzle to a steady rain, the sky stayed grey moving at times toward dark grey and the air got colder.  As I walked in this morning the sidewalks were wet and leaves were strewn across the pavement. No matter which route one might opt to walk, sidewalk or street it was a slippery mess.  The seasons change and that is okay.

 

Less than a week remains until Halloween.  We have no candy in the house.  Our decorations are up, fake tombstones, skulls in the dirt partially covered and a picture of Pennywise peering out of the garage next to an illuminated red balloon.  We can get in the spirit or spirits of the scary day but the candy has to wait.  It is so easy to fall into a bag of mini Hershey bars and a week’s worth of careful eating would be shot all to hell. I saw a picture of Halloween from several years bags and to me my jowly face was one scary mask.

 

When fall comes and in actuality it has now come, the pace of life changes.  The tenor of exchanges is sped up because you don’t linger over street side conversations in cold air. When fall comes people hunker down.  These things are neither good nor bad, they just are.

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Let Me Up I Have Had Enough


Not many posts on my part of late.  You can lay the blame on depression or perhaps malaise. I am not seeing our current situation as a glass half full scenario.  Nope, no way in hell do I think what is coming is going to be good.

 

But what can I do?  Not much really.  I can vote in elections.  I can go to my state party’s events and the like, but other than that I am stuck with the same government everybody else has. Me, I don’t like it. 

 

Some of my friends don’t like the leader but believe that overall good will come of this.  The distilled argument is that we have allowed government to do too much for us for too long and it has stripped up of our self-reliance. The corollary to this is that the government is making decisions in areas where it ought not be treading.

 

I understand the argument.  I agree that there needs to be a paring down of various government intrusions into life and a winnowing of social benefits.  But…and this is a big issue, we cannot abandon the poorest and neediest among us.

 

Me, I don’t have the energy for what comes next in the battle royal that the next set of elections will bring. I am working on my escape plan.

 

If my body holds out, in less than two years I will retire.  When that happens is I am going to sell my home here in Michigan and head out for other parts.  Currently the thinking is that we will look for some seaside port on the Atlantic or Mediterranean.  It is time to learn to live in another world before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  Can’t think of much else I want besides seafood, salt air and the very occasional beer. 

 

What I don’t need is this, “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff”.    Thank you Senator Corker for summing it up.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

700 or just a little Beyond-We all need our Heaven

Somewhere there exists a photo I have been looking for.  Maybe the shot is in my Facebook stream.  The image in my mind’s eye right now might be a print lost somewhere in the boxes and boxes of prints created before photography all went digital. 

What you see as you look at the picture is a view from the second floor of a house in Sea Isle City, NJ.  It was taken in full sun.  The snap does not look toward the ocean but in the opposite direction toward the bay. Looking out over the brackish water to the west you see the posts and other artifacts humankind has abandoned in the marsh.  You also can see the mainland. The lower third of the image is of the railing of the elevated porch from which it was taken.  The railing is a beautiful rainbow of greens, pinks, yellows and a couple of other shades I don’t remember at the moment.  These are beach colors, aqua green and flamingo pink but dusty and lightly faded. The view from that particular spot is my heaven.

Sounds odd doesn’t it, a sliver of a second story porch with just enough room for a few chairs, a birdfeeder and a tabletop fountain facing north as nirvana.  Who would think of their beautiful reward as sideways vista of a salt marsh?  How could that be anyone’s heaven?  Well it isn’t anyone’s heaven, it is my heaven. 

This space was created by the love of two very special people, people who have been my friends (and one of them a relative for a short while) for more than 2/3rds of the life I have lived so far.  Partly these people, with their sense of balance in life, in time and in nature, make that particular view my heaven.  Partly the marsh to the left and the ocean to the right make this my heaven. 

The unending life force of the sea meets the cauldron of life on land, the salt marsh.  Partly, this is heaven because of the spirit of joyful life that is found at a seaside resort like this during the hot days of August. Heaven, my heaven.  I don’t know if sitting in a chair listening to the gulls call and feeling a sea breeze is your heaven but I am okay with any differences we may have on this point.

Often in these current days, which I find very dark and troubling, I go to that deck in my mind and just watch the circling seagulls.  I shut my eyes and shut down this world of spiritual pain. I listen internally to the sound track of a life time.  Words of my parents flow by just as readily as do the tunes of Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell.  I find myself rereading mentally the pages of books that have impacted me.  I dive deep into the constructs I have brought into my heart and mind over the years.

I think I can tell you why the current situation hurts so much.  The control of our lives is held in the hands of men mostly whose values are totally opposite of what I have believed, worked for and voted for all my life. The only choice I have when I leave the reverie is to live and act and speak according to the values I have always clung to not worry about what the rest of my fellow citizens do.

Yeah if I am on that deck I am mentally younger and fitter.  If I am on that deck I am surrounded by love.  If I am on that deck I might even be high.  Haven’t done that in 25 years but when it becomes legal, and it will become legal fuck you Jeff Sessions and your frightened old white man ways, I might partake again.  When I am on that deck I am at peace, quiet, gentle peace.

There is a poet I urge everyone to read.  His name is W.S. Merwin.  His poetry comes at you head on and then sideways.  When I am mentally taking refuge on that seaside second floor deck I have a copy of Moon Before Morning next to me on the table.  I have a large assed Wawa coffee with lots of cream.  A cigarette is burning in the ashtray (remember this is a mental moment) and I am reading aloud to whoever will listen the following poem entitled Ancient World.

Orange sunset
In the deep shell of summer
A long silence reaching across the dry pasture
In the distance a dog barks
At the sound of a door closing
And at once I am older